THE BLOG

Women in Business: Q&A with Pati Zimmermann, owner of bluefrog Plumbing + Drain of San Antonio

02/26/2015 07:24 am ET | Updated Apr 28, 2015

Pati Zimmermann and her husband Larry have been serving the San Antonio area with their air conditioning and plumbing company Zimmermann Services since 1989. In 2014 they added on bluefrog Plumbing + Drain to their services.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I was raised by a single mom who was a vice president of a savings and loan company for 35 years. She was a hardworking, high profile business woman totally proficient in her field.
My earliest memories taught me how to go after my dreams with a completely positive mindset. I learned to be diligent and consistent in my efforts, knowing hard work will pay off. I also learned how to "just make things happen." If I didn't know the answer to a problem I searched until I found it. I discovered a deep faith in God at an early age and He has been my underlying strength when the "going got tuff"! And I've kept Him as my business partner through life.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at bluefrog Plumbing + Drain of San Antonio?
I have worked for as long as I can remember. I believe I started working when I was 12 years old. I have worked many fields such as nursing, teaching, legal secretary and even starting our own plumbing and air conditioning business.

Each job has presented individual challenges and I quickly learned my strengths and weaknesses. When one door closed another quickly opened. I learned to always remain focused on my goals and do what was needed to completely succeed in whatever I was doing.

As time went on a blessing from above came in the form of a commercial building that was literally given to us. All we had to do was take up the notes and then existing renters were paying the note. We have learned the value of customer care and our tagline "a job...simply done right" was born.

We started our biggest challenge opening our own plumbing and air conditioning business from scratch and a $1,200 loan from my mother. In the 80's commercial work in San Antonio took a nose dive. My then employed husband came home with a pink slip. This was our biggest challenge! We had three boys at home and were very pregnant with our forth son. We quickly regrouped and started the biggest guerilla marketing campaign of my entire career. My husband hit the streets and my mother and I hit the phones. Rates were established and business plan was put into place. We were off and running. I soon learned a business card could be your next meal. I learned even more about juggling a home and full time "infant business" under one roof! We would meet our employees at 6am, discuss jobs for the day and then off I would run carpooling my boys to private school then hit the "home office" running! Our then 14 year old aspiring engineer son joined the team. He did an amazing job at proposals and even signed his name. Who would have ever known he was 14? All of the boys took their turn at working the business. Laziness was not an option and summers were spent earning extra money because we needed the help. Now fast forward to our newest marketing challenge, bluefrog Plumbing + Drain San Antonio. By this time I am completely acquainted with hard work.

What have the highlights and challenges been during our tenure at bluefrog Plumbing + Drain San Antonio?
Highlights have been joining ranks with an excellent business model and partner such as blue frog Plumbing + Drain corporately. Being able to achieve goals we have only dreamed of through this partnership. Work challenges have been consistent in our service field, feast or famine! I can say hiring qualified, clean, plumbing techs who I would allow in my home, has been our biggest challenge.

What advice can you offer women who want to start their own franchise?
Don't take no for an answer! Knock down doors coming and going. You cannot let anyone tell you no or get you down. Just brush yourself off and keep moving. Work, Work, Work!

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
I'm never too old to learn something new. I've learned to laugh at my mistakes, admit I've been wrong and learn from them and go on. People who know me would never believe that speaking and meeting new people is not my comfort zone, but, I've learned a smile and a friendly handshake will open many doors. All they can say is no and if so, I go on to the next door.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I take time out every day for devotions. I am able to bring life into a proper perspective, regroup and hit the floor running! Since our business is open 24/7/365, work and life blend together, but I wouldn't have it any other way. As a business owner, you never really leave the workplace. If you aren't okay with that, don't start your own business!

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Believing in yourself, educate yourself. Believe you can and will accomplish great things even in a man's workplace!

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
It has kept me accountable both to myself and to my profession. I totally believe in what I am doing and I look for others that have my belief system.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
My mom, 87 years young, has been a huge leader and role model in my life. She taught me the meaning of hard work from an early age. To this day, she still works hitting the floor running looking to accomplish any task that she has for that day. She was answering phones during our ribbon cutting event so I could be outside with my staff meeting and interacting with the public. She doesn't stop and neither will I.

What do you want bluefrog Plumbing + Drain San Antonio to accomplish in the next year?
I want bluefrog Plumbing + Drain of San Antonio to double the amount of trucks we have currently running. In our business, more work means more staff. We would love to get more steady commercial accounts at hotels and restaurants in the San Antonio area. I would like to always come up at the top of the Google search because of excellent reviews. I know our work, I know our technicians. We are good, we are honest and we don't take advantage of our customers. We only sell what they need, make them aware of potential problems and just leave with a job, "simply done right...because we hop to it"!